2022 Music Revives Old Favorites

“Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers” by Kendrick Lamar, “Midnights” by Taylor Swift, and “Dawn FM” were three of the biggest album releases of 2022.

Daniel Laubhan, Sports & Design Editor

Kendrick Lamar, Taylor Swift, and The Weeknd. Each and every one of these artists has long been a mainstay in the music industry, and each sits at the top of their game in each of their respective genres. In 2022, these artists released major projects that broke records and topped the charts.

Kendrick Lamar Duckworth, who goes simply by Kendrick Lamar, released his first studio album since 2017 this year, “Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers.” The album marks Duckworth’s return to mainstream music after a nearly 4-year absence from the public eye. The album examines his personal struggles at this time, along with his own personal realizations about both his life, and the greater modern culture as seen from his perspective. Songs like “Mother I Sober,” “Auntie Diaries,” and “Count Me Out” stand out as the most emotionally raw and honest songs on the project.

As Stephen Kearse of “Pitchfork” puts it in his critical review, “His final album… enters a world shaped by the pandemic, #MeToo, and the global protests against police brutality, events Kendrick comments on across the record… His main priority, however, is clarifying who, exactly, Kendrick Lamar represents.”

Immediately following this release, Duckworth announced the launch of the “Big Steppers Tour,” with additional appearances at the Milano Summer Festival in Milan, Italy, the Glastonbury Festival in Somerset, England, and Rolling Loud Miami, in Miami, Florida. Duckworth performed at the United Center on August 19.

Additionally, in October of this past year, Taylor Swift returned to the music scene with her first studio album since 2020, “Midnights.” The album was first announced in August at the 2022 VMAs, and shares “the stories of 13 sleepless nights scattered through [her] life,” according to a tweet from Swift later that evening. Standout songs from the album include “Lavender Haze” and “Anti-Hero,” with the latter widely considered by critics as one of her most emotionally raw and honest works yet. 

The album was released to overwhelmingly positive critical reception, with Metacritic rating the album 85/100 and Pitchfork rating it a 7/10. As Brittany Spanos of “Rolling Stone” explained it, “The majority of the album, however, is laser-focused on the anxiety and speed bumps two lovers face as their relationship develops.”

Swift will also be embarking on The Eras Tour, a stadium tour that made headlines before it even started, as the result of the unforeseen rate at which tickets sold out for the tour, along with the ensuing criticism around Ticketmaster’s handling of ticket presale events, and the record-setting prices reported by consumers, with floor tickets and VIP packages topping $12,000 on the resale market, according to ticket reselling website SeatGeek. This immense demand for tickets ultimately led Ticketmaster to cancel the public on-sale for the tour. Swift will be at Soldier Field this summer, from June 2 through June 4.

Finally, Abel Tesfaye, also known as The Weeknd, released his first studio album this year since 2020’s “After Hours,” “Dawn FM.” The Canadian R&B artist first announced the production of the album in August 2021, following up with the release of the single “Take My Breath.” Tesfaye then announced the rebranding of his 2022 “After Hours Tour” into the “After Hours ‘til Dawn Stadium Tour”. The tour came to Soldier Field this past summer, on July 24.

The album features a distinctly different sound from Tesfaye’s previous work, relying heavily on synth beats and production reminiscent of 1980s dance music. As Dani Blum of “Pitchfork” put it, “On Dawn FM, released with essentially no fanfare, the Weeknd has gone all-in on a biblical fantasia, melding frisson and fear into euphoric disco and ’80s R&B with life and death stakes. And for the first time in all his dead-eyed chronicles of debauchery, he sounds a little scared about it.”

2022’s three biggest releases each carried with them a unique story behind them. Whether it was Kendrick Lamar’s virtually complete absence from the public eye leading up to the somewhat spontaneous release of his newest album, Taylor Swift’s Ticketmaster debacle, or The Weeknd’s continuous postponement and reformatting of the “After Hours ‘til Dawn Stadium Tour”. Needless to say, even though 2022 saw some major releases, more is sure to come in 2023.